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Paper Wall Sculpture

Michelle Barnes makes a unique Japanese character paper wall sculpture.

Materials and Tools:

paper scraps from junk mail
Japanese Reiki conji/Kanji design photocopy
craft foam
vinyl fabric
acrylic paint: brown, off-white, black, beige, light brown
rubbing alcohol
old towel
clear shoe polish
paper making frame*
picture frame with matte
paper towels
microwave oven
white glue
cotton swabs
shallow rectangular pan
Chinese coins
leather strips
* Paper making frame is made from paint sticks, aluminum screen and glue.


1. Transfer a Japanese Reiki conji/Kanji design from a book to craft foam. The design will be embossed into the paper by gluing a photocopy of the design onto the craft foam and cutting out the characters with scissors (figure A).

2. Glue the shapes onto a piece of vinyl using white glue (figure B).

3. Grind scrap paper, torn into approximately 1-inch pieces in an old blender with water.

4. Pour the pulp-flurry into a shallow rectangular pan.

5. Dip the papermaking frame into the pulp and deposit a thin layer of pulp over the screen. Lift the screen frame out of the pulp mixture (figure C).

6. Place the papermaking frame over a folded towel and compress some of the water out of the paper (figure D).

Place a folded towel over the top of the paper and compress additional water out of the paper (figure E).

7. Turn the paper onto the top of the vinyl mold with the shapes adhered to the top. Compress a washcloth down and around all the shapes to emboss the design into the paper. Carefully lift one corner and lift the paper away from the craft foam and vinyl sheet. Set the sheet down on paper towels and place it in the microwave for one minute. It will dry in a couple of minutes.

8. Paint the entire face of the piece with a background color (off-white). Distribute the paint with your hands to ensure the paint soaks in the piece (figure G). Let dry.

9. Paint the raised letters with brown acrylic paint and let dry (figure H).

10. Choose a palette of three colors and using a paintbrush, paint the details of the shapes, highlighting and blending colors over the entire piece (figure I).

11. Apply rubbing alcohol to a cotton ball and rub away certain portions of the paint to highlight texture and to mimic color variances on the surface (figure J).

12. Glue on Chinese coins with leather strips running through the coins' center holes (figure K).

13. Apply color or clear shoe wax with a rag to add waterproof quality and a bit of a sheen.

14. Adhere the piece to mat board and add a picture frame.

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